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Olympian Kylie Masse and U of T feature prominently in 2018 Maclean's university rankings

Kylie Masse, an Olympian and Varsity Blues swimmer, appears on the cover of Maclean's and speaks to the magazine about balancing her commitments in the pool and the classroom (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville)

Kylie Masse wakes up at 5:15 most mornings to make it to the pool on time for practice.

It isn’t easy juggling the training schedule of an elite-level athlete with courses at Canada’s top-ranked university.

Masse, a bronze medallist in the 100-metre backstroke at the Rio Games in 2016, appears on the cover of Maclean's in cap and gown and spoke to the magazine about splitting her time between the pool and the classroom. The feature story on Masse was one of many articles about the University of Toronto, from a piece on the surge in international applicants to one on the university's efforts to boost out-of-classroom learning.

Over the summer, Masse broke the world record in 100-metre backstroke at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest with a time of 58.10 seconds. On campus, however, she's just another kinesiology student trying to achieve a top GPA. 

 “With school friends, those outside of swimming, I get anxious around them,” she says, adding that she often has to play catch-up in courses. “They’ll say, ‘I’ve studied all of this,’ and I haven’t even finished the chapter.’”

But being an Olympian also occasionally gives Masse an edge in class. For example, when she took a course on the Olympic Games – its history, achievements and influence – she was asked to profile an Olympian. She texted her friend Penny Oleksiak, a gold medallist in the 100-metre freestyle at Rio and Canada’s youngest Olympic champion ever. “Hey, I’m going to do my project on you,” she said.

As she often does in swimming, Masse earned top marks.

Read more about Masse in Maclean's

Read about Maclean's naming U of T top university by reputation for 2018

She wasn't the only U of T student spotlighted in the pages of Maclean's 2018 university rankings issue. Rebekah Robinson, from Severn, Md., took centre stage in a piece about foreign students streaming to Canadian universities, including U of T. Out of the six schools on her shortlist, she chose U of T because it has a strong international relations program, it's situated in a big, diverse city, and it has snowy winters.

In the same article, Ted Sargent, the university's vice-president, international, describes how U of T has intensified efforts over the last two years to reach students in the U.S., India and the Middle East. The university now sponsors recruiting events in major American cities, including the one in Washington, D.C. that caught Robinson's attention.

“That was a really great way to reach students and parents in a way that we hadn't done as much of in the past,” Sargent says.

And how is U of T helping students accumulate different experiences in university? One piece about how “grades aren't everything” describes U of T's roll-out of a co-curricular record, a summation of a student's out-of-classroom activities, that is piquing the interest of employers.

In the four years since the CCR was introduced, participation has doubled. Now, 9,000 students, or 10 per cent of undergraduates across all three U of T campuses, are registered for the CCR. “The real value of the CCR is using it as a learning tool so students can reflect on their experiences,” Kimberly Elias, project manager of student life at U of T, tells Maclean's.

The issue also includes useful advice for first-year students, including six tips from U of T professors, staff and alumni. University Professor Thomas Hurka, in the department of philosophy, suggests making the most of the four years of university to hone one's writing. Work out your ideas, write a draft and cut out the fat, he says. “Your professors will appreciate this and reward you for it,” he notes. “You'll also be prepared for any career that requires communications skills, which is a whole lot of really good careers.”

What else does Maclean's say about U of T in its university rankings issue?

  • An article about cross programs at universities notes that 40 per cent of  U of T's fourth-year students opt for double majors. 
  • As the demand for online courses and programs increases, U of T is offering classes given by experienced, award-winning instructors, says Laurie Harrison, director of online learning strategies at the university.
  • Scholarships aren't just for “super geniuses” – many academic awards also go to students who demonstrate leadership, a commitment to community service and other qualities not recorded on a transcript, the magazine says. At U of T, a “scholarship sorter” lets students search for awards using keywords.